If you live long enough, you’ll see some strange things. One of the strangest things I’ve seen in the outdoors happened about 20 years ago on the Jackson River in the upper Hidden Valley area. I had been invited on a shocking expedition with the Game Department. For several years, I had urged the state to make that area catch-and-release, but they wanted to know if trout would hold over before they changed their regulations.
I met them at 9 am on a September morning and we took their truck upriver a couple miles, got out, put on rubber waders on so we wouldn’t get a jolt when the electrodes hit the water, and we began stunning fish of all descriptions, taking samples as we went.
In a one-mile stretch that day, we shocked 63 trout that we know of. Each was measured and a scale was taken to help with determine their overall health and growth rate.
The final result proved that trout could indeed survive through a hot summer, on the Jackson, but the really interesting thing occurred when a fat smallmouth surfaced after being shocked. He looked like a football – the fattest smallmouth I have ever seen. The biologists measured him at 14 7/8-inches and he weighed at least two pounds, but while examining the fish, we noticed a tail of a previously swallowed fish sticking out his gullet. The biologists decided to leave the partially eaten fish in the stomach and released the smallmouth. Once the fish had recovered, he made a big leap in the middle of the pool and regurgitated the dead fish. Just for the heck of it, I waded out and brought the fish back. It was a 9-inch brown trout, partially decomposed because of the stomach acids in the smallmouth.
What that means to fishermen is that it is almost impossible to throw too big of a lure to catch a nice smallmouth bass.
A 9-inch Rapala would have worked for that one particular smallmouth. But a 9-inch brown trout in the belly of a 14 7/8” bass? If I hadn’t seen it, I would have never believed it.